3 Things to Know About the Fall 2021 College Admissions Cycle


With a school year that no one could have expected last September now drawing to a close, incoming high school seniors are left wondering what the future holds for the college admissions process this autumn. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced students to engage in distance learning from home and colleges to reconsider what will be weighed as part of their college applications. If the topsy-turvy nature of this year’s admissions cycle is confusing you, remember these three key takeaways when preparing your application.

Junior year grades won’t be assessed the traditional way.

More likely than not, your school has adjusted how your academic assignments and exams have been graded in the last several months. Whether the change was from letter grades to pass/fail or numerical grades to credit/no credit, it will certainly be reflected in your transcript. Colleges are expecting these changes, but how will they be taken into account with your previous grades? The answer will vary from college to college, but students will need to clarify and highlight their strengths nevertheless.

Many colleges have made the SAT/SAT Subject Tests and ACT optional.

The spring semester of junior year is the height of standardized testing season. However, due to the pandemic, the College Board cancelled the June SAT, affecting about one million students planning to take it. In response, over two dozen colleges and universities, including the University of California, have waived the SAT/ACT requirement. Having said that, you are not completely scot-free. You will now have to take the tests in the fall and more importantly, decide whether or not submitting any scores is to your advantage.

AP exam scores could be weighed differently.

Much like the SAT and ACT, AP exams have been greatly affected by the pandemic. Students across the world have taken abbreviated 45-minute virtual versions of the normally three-and-a-half hour exams. Colleges know that this year's AP scores were earned in a very different environment, especially for students who did not have reliable technology or internet, and they will take that into account.

What did you do during shelter-in-place?

Directly or indirectly, colleges will want to know how you used this time. Did you wake up late and play video games? Did you enrich yourself with something intellectually stimulating? Did you give back to the community?

As you can see, this year fall applicants will face a "new normal" for their college applications. Understanding the changes in requirements and deciphering the nuances in how admissions officers will evaluate candidates is important. We understand this admission cycle is like no other. If you are confused or you would like more information about the 2021 college application cycle, sign up for a one-hour consultation.

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